The Perverse Logic of the ACLU

On Thursday, I appeared on the public radio program, Which Way L.A.? hosted by Warren Olney, which airs on KCRW out of Santa Monica. It is consistently one of the best public affairs forums on radio, allowing for intelligent discussions of important issues.

The topic being discussed on Thursday was Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s decision to restore minimal cooperation between his department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents looking to identify dangerous criminals in his jails.

ICE_ArrestTo most people, allowing ICE access to dangerous deportable criminals would seem like a no-brainer — but then the ACLU does not represent most people. My opponent on Which Way L.A.? was Jennie Pasquarella of the ACLU of Southern California. Much of what she had to say was unsurprising. It reflected the ACLU’s clear, though unstated goal of making sure that no one is deported from the United States.

But one thing she said at the very end of the conversation was not only surprising, but after giving it some thought, was rather disturbing. When asked what possible objection she could have to Los Angeles cooperating with ICE to remove illegal aliens in the county’s jails, she referred back to a case early in her career with the ACLU.

In that case, Pasquarella claims, a woman who was in the country illegally called the police regarding a domestic violence case. Without providing any details, the result was that the police, correctly or incorrectly, decided to take the woman into custody which resulted in her being put into deportation proceedings “even though she had not been convicted of anything.”

The woman Pasquarella describes may or may not have been the guilty party in the domestic violence incident, but she was guilty of violating federal immigration laws. On that basis, Pasquarella maintains that an unbreachable firewall should be erected between local law enforcement and ICE.

But there was another woman whose name came up in the conversation: Kate Steinle. Ms. Steinle was not guilty of violating any laws. She just had the misfortune of picking a bad time to take a walk with her father along the San Francisco waterfront – an event that Pasquarella describes as “unfortunate.”

Yet, while the deportation of a woman whose only offense (in Pasquarella’s opinion) was violating our immigration laws should be cause for blocking cooperation between local authorities and ICE, the murder of Ms. Steinle, which was a direct consequence of the refusal of local authorities to cooperate with ICE, should not warrant any softening of local sanctuary policies.

In other words, by the perverse logic of the ACLU, the deportation of a woman to her home country is a tragedy that must be prevented from recurring, but the murder of a 32-year-old woman spending a summer day with her father is just an unfortunate incident.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    The (UN)ACLU has been making a mockery of laws and justice, for nearly as long as they’ve been in existence.

      • avatar

        Both are equally as bad. And as my former boss used to say” You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
        They will stay that way until and unless they fade away for lack of interest! We can only hope!

  2. avatar

    The spin on Boehner’s resignation is that it was a selfless act of a good guy. Or, just maybe, he might have been facing the fate of a loss like Eric Cantor in 2014, when Cantor was seen as being pro amnesty or at least anti enforcement. Boehner and Mitch McConnell were all over the airways last fall saying put us in power and we will stop the president’s amnesty. The voters did, and they didn’t. There is not one bill introduced in either house that would do that.

      • avatar

        Since when did I ever say he was my “boy”. I’ve been ripping him for months because he and McConnell broke their promises from last fall. Maybe read and comprehend once in awhile.